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playing at the edges

“I believe I will never quite know.

Though I play at the edges of knowing,

truly I know

our part is not knowing”

-Mary Oliver “Bone”

I am in the midst of unraveling and shedding; and also reconstructing and accumulating. I began the Creative Visionary Program last month, inspired by many of my favorite artists who too learned to see their art differently, dancing between the freedom of play and the discernment of a critical eye. Certainty and Uncertainty. Not knowing and knowing. I’m here to have the hand-holding I need to return to a beginner’s mind and all the possibilities and insecurity that mindset holds, but with more depth of understanding. And damn, it’s hard. For many of us in the program. We get caught wanting to know where we are headed, feeling adrift at sea and having no idea how to steer the ship. Like we were headed along a road, air-lifted and dropped in a foreign land, bewildered, excited and not just a little insecure. And also, so very alive.

When we allow ourselves to shed what we thought we knew and the oh-so-human tendency to create citadels of certainty, we are energized by the vastness and inherent unpredictability in life. So much potency, richness, and also risk. Our senses sharp, our minds receptive, our hearts yearning. I’m watching as we all enter into this powerful state, briefly. Then terrified by its inherent wild waters, we reconstruct the shore with new formulas for how to approach our art (and life). We make new rules, new banks. None of which is inherently a bad thing. To stay in our creative hearts, we need a certain amount of safety in order to feel like we can open and unfurl. And we also need the right amount of freedom to inspire our boldness, curiosity, and wonder. Both freedom and safety in healthy doses invigorate our aliveness, connection, and purpose.

I’m noticing myself frequently falling off this tightrope - too much uncertainty and I’m paralyzed by fear. Too much safety and I’m too lackluster and uninspired. But I’m committed to getting back up again, stepping off the ledge and choosing groundlessness as a vocation (at least most of the time). It’s my hope that my paintings continue to explore and express and evoke those edges of the mysterious within the familiar, to poke at this paradox. The inherent wonder of being alive in all its confusing complexity and also its utter, essential simplicity. I do this by juxtaposing surprising colors, or shapes/motifs, or textures. And hopefully something ineffable comes through too. Art can do wonders to create a portal through paradox that, by granting entry, expands our hearts and minds toward a greater whole. This magic and medicine embedded in art continues to inspire my devotion and reverence. And as hard as it is, as many times as I fall off this tightrope or cling to the banks of the river, I continue to be addicted to the aliveness found in the liminal space between the familiar and unfamiliar, “play[ing] at the edges of knowing”.

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